The United States is home to countless wonders, from some of the most diverse landscapes on earth to a massive collection of iconic treasures. While it may be one, big United States of America, there are plenty of differences to know about when traveling in the USA. From the ever-changing weather and time zones to different state laws to regional cultural contrasts, here is everything you need to know about traveling between the states in the USA.
The USA is big – 3.8 million square miles big
The United States is the third biggest country in the world, with 50 states spanning across 3.8 million square miles. It takes around 45 hours to drive the 2,800 miles from the east coast to the west coast. Driving from New York to Los Angeles would take the same time as driving across Europe from Lisbon to Moscow!
To put it lightly, traveling between the states takes a lot of time. Be prepared to cover a lot of distance – and a whole lot of stunning scenery. From the rocky coast and mountain ranges of the Northeast to the dazzling lakes and grassy plains of the Midwest, this is one spectacular country.
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There are many ways to get around
Whether you want to go by car, bus, plane or train, there are plenty of ways to see the USA. The fastest way is flying, with direct flights between New York and Los Angeles taking around six hours. But if you want to take the most scenic way, you’ve got to get on wheels.
You can hire a car and get out there on one of the four coast-coast interstates or the iconic highways. Be aware that most car rental companies set their minimum age requirement to 25, while some also have an upper age limit for renting, often from age 70.
If you prefer to have someone else take care of the driving, there are a few long-distance bus operators who will take you around the country for cheap. You can also check out Amtrak, the national train operator that connects over 500 destinations across 46 states.
If you’re dreaming of a multi-destination USA vacation hitting all the highlights and hidden gems, you can’t beat a trip with Trafalgar. You’ll travel in a customized luxury coach, with all the trimmings like complimentary WiFi. Plus, to adapt to our new world we have taken additional measures to elevate our hygiene and sanitary practices, including cleaning and disinfecting all surfaces and air conditioning filters on a daily basis.
Each state has different laws
From traffic rules to alcohol restrictions, all states are allowed to enforce their own laws in addition to federal laws. When traveling between the states, it’s important to be aware of changing laws. For example, you can’t pump your own gas in New Jersey, and many states won’t sell alcohol on Sundays.
Since you must follow the laws of the state you’re in – and not your state of residence – it’s worth researching different state laws before you head off on your trip. You can also find specific state road rules on the DMV website.
Everything is diverse – including the people
With a population of over 328 million people, it makes sense that you’ll come across plenty of regional differences. While the country is split into 50 states, these states are further divided into five major regions. These include the Northeast, Southwest, West, Southeast, and Midwest.
As you travel between the states and the regions, you’ll pick up cultural differences on everything including accents, slang words, food, drink, laws and politics. You can go from the soul food, iconic music and friendly hospitality of the Deep South, to the relaxed and creative vibes along the West Coast. Getting to know the regional differences of the USA is all part of the adventure!
There are a lot of time differences
When you’re traveling between the states, it’s important to remember which time zone you’re in. There are six to choose from! Alaska and Hawaii each have their own time zones and the remaining four time zones are in the continental US. These include the Pacific, Mountain, Central and Eastern time zones.
When flying, remember that your departure and arrival times are in local time. A six-hour flight from NYC to LA looks much longer on your ticket because you’re crossing all four time zones.
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The weather changes all the time too
The weather in the US can get quite extreme, from snowstorms to scorching desert heat to hurricanes and tornadoes! You can prepare yourself by packing versatile clothing like rain jackets and sun protection like hats and sunscreen. It’s also important to be aware of the weather forecast when traveling in the USA.
Tune into local weather channels and get advice from the locals in the event of extreme weather. Flooding conditions can be particularly dangerous. You should never drive or wade through puddles and rushing water when you don’t know the depth.
Medical insurance and prescription filling
Before you head off, check your health insurance coverage to make sure you’ll be covered when out of state. If you take regular medication, you should also be prepared in case you need a refill.
Many pharmacies recognize out-state-prescriptions, but you can always call your doctor and have them send the prescription through to the local pharmacy. So remember to have your doctor’s details handy!
You should tip in every state
Tipping service staff is the normal practice across every state, and you should always tip at least 15% to 20%. Tips make up a large percentage of service employees’ salaries, particularly servers at restaurants who are often working on a low minimum wage. Use this handy guide to tipping to figure out when to leave a tip on your travels in the USA.
Do you have any tips on traveling between the states in the USA? Let us know in the comments below!